This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Avatar photo

Simon Atkinson

Deputy Head of Mission, Cape Town

Part of FCDO Human Rights UK in South Africa

16th May 2014 Cape Town, South Africa

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO)

Guest blogger Andrew Carter:

Love Is Great Britain
Love Is Great Britain

17 May is an important date in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) calendar – a time for people around the world to celebrate sexual and gender diversities, and say ‘no’ to homophobic and transphobic discrimination, prejudice and violence. Working in South Africa, I am hugely impressed by the progressive constitution in relation to human rights, and legislation that recognises the rights of LGBT people to live their lives free from fear through the Bill of Rights.

In the UK, we share these same values. I was extremely pleased to see the UK recently declared the number one country in Europe for LGBT rights (for a third year running), by ILGA Europe, the leading European network of LGBT organisations. Sajid Javid, former Minister for Equalities,  welcomed the news: “The UK has a strong record of protecting and promoting equality. I am pleased that our work to protect people from discrimination because of their sexuality has been recognised as some of the best in the world. The first same sex weddings in March were a momentous step for equality that we should be proud of.”


Unfortunately, South Africa’s rainbow nation rests on a continent where its regional neighbours do not necessarily share the same views. In some countries in Africa, LGBT people are persecuted on a daily basis for simply being who they are. Our government rightly lobbies overseas governments on these issues, and continues to push for improvements to human rights around the world. We remain committed to promoting greater recognition of LGBT rights globally.

Last week I came back from a two week driving holiday around the Western Cape. My friends and I had a fabulous time, but I couldn’t help feeling a little sad as we drove through Ceres and I remembered an article that I had read in the Pink News. Just six weeks ago, a 21 year old gay man was killed in what can only described as a horrendous act of violence, and was subsequently set on fire. This all happened, while other young South Africans watched. It’s a reminder to me that legislation is only a first step – we must all play our part to promote equality, and change hearts and minds. I encourage each and every reader to show support to LGBT rights today and every day.

About Simon Atkinson

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After…

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After university at Leeds and 4 years teaching English and working for NGOs in Europe and South America, Simon joined the UK Foreign Office. His first overseas posting was in India, where he was a political officer covering issues like counter-proliferation and the relationship between India and its neighbours. He was also the Commonwealth Games Attaché during Delhi’s 2010 Games.

Cape Town is his second and current posting. His role here is dual hatted – as Deputy Consul General, he supports the Consul General manage the office, and as the Head of the Political Team, he covers the whole gambit of South African policy (though being based in Cape Town means this is heavily focused on domestic policies and Parliament).

Simon is married to Gina, who also works for the Foreign Office. They enjoy being in South Africa, as both a fascinating country to cover politically and wonderful place to live, allowing them to pursue their passion for the outdoors and perfect their ability to ‘braai’ (not that they’re under any illusion about how often they’ll get to demonstrate this skill once they return to the UK)!